Tony had one request for his birthday this year -- he wanted to have dinner somewhere "fancy."
Normally, we're the opposite of fancy. We choose "family-friendly" restaurants where the staff doesn't care (provided we tip well) if Olivia decides that her tortilla chips need to be crushed, doused in iced tea, and systematically scattered on the floor in a 2-foot radius around our entire table. If there's a buffet, all the better.
But birthdays come only once a year. So on Friday night, we booked the babysitter and spent the evening at Wink.
We were happy to discover that the food is what's fancy at Wink, not the atmosphere. When we arrived, we were greeted warmly and immediately taken to our table and presented with menus.
The menu wishes Tony a happy birthday. Thanks, menu!
Our great, knowledgeable server noted that the menu is printed daily because it changes every day based on what's fresh and available. They get a lot of their ingredients from local farms, which is how it should be.
Tony elected to do a 5-course tasting menu, and I was going to be served a 5-course vegan tasting menu. Is that awesome or what? I was so impressed as the server explained that the chefs are always happy to create dishes to suit a vegan, vegetarian, or any other special diet, based on whatever they happen to have in the kitchen that day. The fun part was that, while Tony's courses were printed out on the menu, each of my courses would be a complete surprise since it was being created spontaneously.
I really liked the atmosphere of the dining room. It's a small but uncrowded, with lots of light pouring in from the front windows. The decor was low-key and unpretentious, but classy. That pretty much sums up the entire attitude of Wink. It didn't feel stuffy or snooty at all. We could tell that they wanted us to relax and take our time enjoying the food -- which we did!
The first course was a salad made from peaches soaked in moscato wine, arugula, radishes, and pine nuts. I instantly noticed how fresh everything tasted, like it had literally been picked out of a garden that morning. Also, I've been interested in unusual flavor combinations lately, and I have to say, peaches and pine nuts are amazing together!
Next, I was served quinoa with japanese eggplant, carrots, and tomato salsa. The quinoa was purple, which I've never seen. Is there is an actual purple variety of quinoa? Maybe it was dyed. Anyway, this quinoa was perfectly seasoned, not bland as grains can often be in restaurants where they are prepared as a side accompaniment, an afterthought. The carrots were probably the most delicious carrots I've ever eaten. They were only lightly cooked and still had some bite to them. And the eggplant was so delicious that even eggplant-fearing Tony took a second bite. This was my favorite course.
Sorry for the declining photo quality -- as the sun set, the restaurant darkened. For the third course, I was served fennel, red and yellow peppers, and peas in arugula pesto. The fennel was so tender, it practically melted in my mouth. I loved the mild licorice flavor. The peas, on the other hand, were barely cooked. Like the carrots in the previous course, they had a pleasant bite to them. Their freshness was obvious and I loved the combination of all the different veggies in the yummy pesto.
The fourth course was tomato slices and corn dressed with balsamic vinegar. The pairing of the sweet, syrupy balsamic with the sweet corn made me almost feel like I was eating a dessert. This was the only course I wasn't absolutely crazy about. It definitely could've used some tofu, or at least some whole wheat pasta to make it a bit more substantial. For comparison's sake, Tony was eating steak for his fourth course, and he'd already had scallops and duck. Vegans like protein too -- just sayin'!
The server had informed me that the dessert course would be a "fruit soup." I admit, I wasn't excited about this concept -- especially after seeing a woman at a nearby table making all kinds of rapturous expressions over her chocolate mousse! However, by this point in the meal, I was pretty full. So a light dessert was actually a good idea. Apple slices, blueberries, raspberries and giant blackberries all floated in a broth made from a sweet wine called prosecco. The prosecco seemed to soak up the various fruit flavors and intensify them. Slices of candied lemon zest added a lovely, citrusy sweetness. I ended the meal feeling satisfied and even refreshed, rather than stuffed.
Tony was very pleased with his food, too -- he said it was one of the top meals he's ever had. We agreed that the multi-course structure made us feel like we were in some kind of strange eating endurance challenge, but the courses were small enough that we didn't feel like we were overdoing it. This dinner, clocking in at over two hours, was a very enjoyable change from our usual "eat what you can until the kids get wild, box up the rest and get the hell out" restaurant forays. Kudos to Wink for being so willing to craft an elegant, unique and, yes, fancy dining experience for vegans as well as omnis.